St. Clair College President Patti France welcomed more than 800 walkers Sunday at the 4th annual Suicide Prevention Awareness Walk, which started at the SportsPlex and continued on to the Herb Gray Parkway.
The walk was the culmination of a month-long awareness campaign organized by the Canadian Mental Health Association, Windsor-Essex County Branch to bring attention to what has been described as a health care crisis. According to the CMHA, suicide is the second leading cause of death for those under the age of 25.
"You know what strikes me as most unusual - and frustrating - about this most dire aspect of the mental health crisis? It's the fact that it is occurring in this era when the ability to communicate dominates our society, like no other time in all of human history," France said. "Maybe by being over-connected in mass fashion, we've become under-connected in individual fashion, so that a signal or cry for help from one person can be drowned out by the collective noise generated by many."
France encouraged the walkers to connect with family and friends through phone calls and face-to-face conversations that are deliberate, personal and deep. "Forget, for the time being, your many Facebook friends, and instead, concentrate on making face-to-face connections with your real-life friends.
"And in making those connections, don't ask, 'What are you doing?' but rather, 'How are you doing? How have you been? How is your life? How can I help?'"
Kim Willis, director of communications and mental health promotion for CMHA Windsor-Essex, said throughout the month of September, $45,000 was raised in support of the Sole Focus Project. These funds will be used to provide mental health training, education and awareness in Windsor-Essex.
"Sadly, suicide affects many families," Willis said. "Throughout the month of September our goal is to let those struggling with mental illness know they are not alone. In addition, we also want families who have experienced suicide to know that they too are not alone.
"We hear from families that they find enormous solace in walking with hundreds of others who have experienced the traumatic loss of someone to suicide. If we reach even one person through this campaign, it is worth it."